Heavenly Father, we now believe that the vary core and culmination of worship is that we give you our attention to what the holy Spirit would want to say to us so that we can respond to some definite word from God. We pray you would speak, I thank you Lord for so many people at four different services who come to hear and to do. Thank you for such a vibrant body of Christ. We pray Lord you'd instruct us now. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Words don't always translate from one language to another language. Advertisers have found that out the hard way. When Coca-Cola wanted to advertise in China because of the growing market, they promoted Coca-Cola and they were told to pronounce it Kay-Ku-Kala. And so they put out thousands of banners and posters that people should drink Ko-Kay-Kala. And they found out that it doesn't translate all that well that that term means female horse stuffed with wax in Chinese. Pepsi-Cola also decided to launch in China and their slogan was "Come alive with the Pepsi generation," only it translates (the test market was in Taiwan), it translates "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead." Kentucky Fried Chicken also launched in China with their "Finger-lickin' Good" slogan, it came out as "Eat your fingers off" in Chinese. When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova years ago to a South American audience, they didn't know why the sales went so poorly and they discovered that in Spanish Nova means it won't go. No wonder they didn't sell anything. Coors put out its slogan, "Turn it loose," in Spanish, it was read, "Suffer from diarrhea." That may be the only honest slogan there. Communication can get lost in translation. And repetition. Have you noticed, have you ever done that experiment, you get ten people in a room, you whisper a story, fill it with enough facts, it's told to the next person, to the next person. By the time it comes out with the tenth person it's a very different story than what was started.
That's why the book that you and I hold in our hands, this Bible, amazes us. It shows itself to be very different in its communication. Now we've started a series as the banner behind me suggests called "The Biography of God." I love a good biography, I'm reading one right now on the life of Augustine. I like reading how a life was formed and decisions made and it's very inspiring to read a biography. But every biography must have a biographer. The Bible is filled with biographers, people who interacted with God and they wrote about what they observed and what God said to them, what God did for them. And we have in this book a true geography of God.
Now last week I said that there was a time in my life where I walked outside, cocked my head back and I said, "How can I know that God exists?" What's funny is I never thought once to crack open a Bible. We had a Bible in our house, it was huge, it was you know those two-ton family Bibles, it took a crane to move from one room to the next. We never read it, we never consulted it, it was never a family reading thing. The only thing I did was look at the pictures, it had a lot of great pictures. But even the people in the pictures looked nothing like anybody I knew, except they must have liked Frisbee I thought as a child because they all had glowing Frisbees behind all their heads in these pictures.
Well in our first study, we saw the obvious things, that God exists and that God is personal and if you want to know him it takes faith and pursuit. That was Hebrews 11. Then last week in our second study we looked at the clues that god has left in this world to discover that there is a God, even if we have no Bible at all, how we can look for a cause; we can look at the universe; and we can look within the conscience, the moral law. But we need more than that. We need a biography, we need a testimony of a biographer. Now, the Bible indicates that God has spoken in a variety of ways. That's how Hebrews opens up, "God spoke in many ways at many times in the past." But of all the ways that God has chosen to communicate himself, you can actually put them in two categories. You could label one natural and you could label the other supernatural. Or maybe even better yet, label one general revelation and the other special revelation. And that's what we want to consider today more than the first is the second. We touched briefly on the first, general revelation, last week, although we're going to tip our hats to it this morning, we want to deal with the second. So, one is the big book of the universe, the other is the little book of the Bible. Psalm 19 has both of those as the subject matter. And David who wrote the Psalm wants you to know that both general revelation of God's creation and the special revelation of God's word, they both point to God and they do not contradict each other.
Charles Spurgeon put it this way: "He is wisest who reads both The World Book and the Word book as two volumes of the same work and feels concerning them, my Father wrote them both."
So, let's look at the first six verses, just briefly because we spent more time with that last time and notice the contrast at least and notice how God speaks generally to specifically. Now I want you especially to notice the descriptions of how the universe speaks to us. It says, "the heavens (here it is) declare the glory of God. The firmament shows his handiwork, day unto day utters speech, night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone throughout all the earth and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tabernacle for the sun which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber and rejoices like a strong man to run its race, its rising is from one end of heaven, it's circuit to the other end and there is nothing hidden from its heat."
David spent a lot of time outside. He was a shepherd boy, he got to put his head on a rock and lay down and look at the bright stars. There was no light pollution around where he lived. There was no smog. You know, we are disadvantaged, we don't spend the same amount of time in the outside environment as the ancients used to. We live in a house that's controlled by air conditioning and heating, it's temperature controlled; we've got our music. And then we walk just a few feet to our car which is also temperature controlled and covered and our music is there and our cell phone. And we live very protected lives. They lived very exposed life and they were able to look and observe the heavens around them more than we do. And David said, "The world that I live in and all of its universe spread out speaking to me." He heard it, God exists in He's glorious. Now we have been listening to the skies for a number of years. But we're listening for voices from aliens. Harvard University put out a receiving dish eighty-five feet in diameter, just outside Boston, Massachusetts, and USA Today said, "it's part of the most extensive search conducted for intelligent life in outer space. It allows scientists to listen to and analyze 128,000 frequencies at once 24/7." David is saying the heavens are already blabbering, they're already talking, there's a gossip going on just looking at the heavens of the glory of God, of its Creator. Notice in verse 2, it says, "Day unto day utters speech," if you have a New International Version it's more accurate, it says, "Pours forth speech." It's translating a very strong Hebrew word that uses as an image a gushing spring pouring out refreshing water of God's revelation."
You'll notice also that it's not a one-time deal, that God is speaking through the universe continually, day after day it says, night after night. These silent preachers are telling us about God and his glory and his creativity and his majesty. It's giving us a message, every single day, every month, every year, year after year, it's as if one day passes the baton to the next day and the revelation continues. Not only that but notice it's universal, it says, "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." That means there's no culture, there's no nation that is exempt from this communication. It doesn't matter if you live in the jungles, if you live in the deserts, if you live in the mountain communities, if you live by the sea; there is enough information in the natural world to let anybody know there is a God. No wonder Paul writes in Romans 1, "Therefore they are without excuse." The heavens are speaking, the world is speaking; but it's not enough. We need more information than that, we need a biography. Sure the heavens tell us there's a God who's intelligent and creative and powerful. But it doesn't tell us much more than that. It doesn't tell us why we're here, it doesn't tell us what his plan is for us, it doesn't tell us where we're going once we die. None of that is heard of or seen by observing the natural world. So, though it is a revelation of God, it is a speech of God, it's not perfect.
So, what David does beginning in verse 7 is he shifts the focus from general to special. And notice the noun change. Verse 7, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple, the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord (another statement of God's scripture) the fear of the Lord is clean enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
It's pretty easy to see that the first six verses he's looking up at The World Book and beginning in verse 7 he's looking at the Word book; the statutes, the testimony, the law, the commandments. And notice the description: it's perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true and righteous altogether; these are moral qualities exhibited in the scripture that are not present in nature. In other words, these scriptures are a trustworthy biography. The Bible tells you the rest of the story, what Creation does not. And that's why you can never say, "Well let's forget going to church and reading the Bible. All we have to do is go camping, we can hug a few rocks and look at the stars. God is speaking through that." You can get some information from that but you can't get enough information from that. There's more.
I love what Peter said, Peter was there and saw a glorious display of Jesus transfigured before him and a few of his buddies on the mount of transfiguration. He says, "Look, we were eyewitnesses to His majesty. We saw glory." Then he says, "But we have a more sure word of prophecy." In other words, what I saw with my eyes of the glory of God can't even compare to what is revealed here in this sure word of prophecy. So the natural world tells us of the glory and power of God. It does not tell us of the plan of God nor of the love of God. So, what can this book, this biography of God, revealed in the scripture, what can it tell us? What can it do for us? Well, according to the psalmist in verse 7 it can save the soul. That's the first step. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." It means to bring back or to restore. Listen in the Bible you can be confronted with enough truth to convert you, there's enough truth here to bring you back, to restore you back to God. He says, "The law of the Lord is perfect." It means complete, the Hebrew word tamin, completed, or sound or whole. Several years ago when I first met, I met my first Messianic Jew, a Jewish person raised with the Old Testament gave his life to Christ. And I was talking to him and I said, "What is it you believe in?" I'll never forget this, he said, "I am a completed Jew." I never heard that term before until then. I said, "Explain what that means." He said, "Well all the promises that God would send a Messiah have been fulfilled in Yeshua, in Jesus and I believe in him and because I do I see myself as a completed Jew." I love that description. Well everybody in that sense needs to be completed, or converted, and the scriptures will give you the information to do that.
I hope you own a Bible, I know that sounds very elementary, but I hope you own one, I hope you have your own Bible. And I hope that you carry it to church. I'm not down on you if you forgot your Bible today, don't worry about it, we've got them scattered around but buy one, it's your Bible. Read from it, my hope would be every single day. And find out where things are that you'll need in the days ahead. In fact, I hope you'll write in it, I know that's sacrilegious to some, but underline things and circle words and write notes in it, because it's not a religious relic, it's a spiritual tool fro your maturity and it can convert the soul. Peter said, in the Bible, or in God's truth, is everything we need for life and godliness. You don't need to go anywhere else for the needs of your soul than right here. The Lord Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone but what? Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Why? Because it's tamin, it's complete, it gives you all you need.
That's the first thing it can do and that's the first step: it can convert your soul. Second, it can satisfy your mind. Also in verse 7 notice, "The testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple." The word simple means open-minded. Are you? Open-minded? I know a lot of people that when it comes to life, they're open-minded; when it comes to this book, a door goes down instantly. "Well, that's the Bible, it's not accurate." Well how do you know? Tell me your research personally and how you know so much. Your mind goes down.
There is a description of the Bible, a definition of the Bible from an old Russian dictionary as this: "The bible is a collection of fantastic legends without any scientific support. It's full of dark hints, historical mistakes, and contradictions. It serves as a factor for gaining power and subjugating unknowing nations." Talk about propaganda, nothing could be further from the truth. Because you see the Bible, this biography of God, exhibits certain characteristics that no other book exhibits. I'll give you just a few. First, accurate transmission. Now hear me, though the bible has been copied, recopied and recopied and distributed; it has not marred it's message. How do we know that? Because we have in existence today, five thousand seven hundred and fifty some odd manuscripts of the New Testament alone. More than all of the writings of Plato and Socrates and Homer put together. You know how many copies of all their works in totality? Eighteen. In some of those documents, the earliest copy we have is two thousand years after it was originally written. We have copies of the New Testament in existence that go back to thirty years after they were originally written by John. Manuscript evidence. Now you might hear that and go, "Okay, so we've got a lot of copies of it. How do we know it's a real representation of the original? Well, you've heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the greatest discoveries of the modern era, discovered in the 1940s, suddenly the world had a copy of parts of the Bible that were a thousand years older than our oldest copy up to that point. So now here we are comparing the book of Isaiah that we've had as our oldest manuscript and we're comparing manuscript with the same book written a thousand years before that. So it's been copied and recopied and copied and copied and recopied and copied and recopied for a thousand years. And so now we compare the two and what we found was amazing with the Dead Sea scrolls. What we didn't find was even more amazing: mistakes, there weren't any. It was virtually the same document with a few minor variations in letters or punctuation. But it was the same. Why is that? Because to copy a scroll was a meticulous and esteemed profession. Training for it began at age 14 and you weren't released to do the job until you were age 40. They took it very seriously. The scroll was prepared, the inks were set out, the surface was treated, there had to be thirty-seven letters per line, certain number of lines per page. And they were put down, checked for visual accuracy, spacing between the letters, counting up all the letters, it had to be the exact same amount. The middle letter of the scroll was also compared with the master scroll and if there was any change at all, in any of those things, the copy was torn up and they'd start all over again. Accurate transmission.
Also the Bible exhibits reliable history. Unlike that piece of propaganda that I just read you. You know, this isn't just a religious book, it's a historical book, there's events spoken about and people written about. And we have a history of civilization. Years ago a historian, esteemed historian, Sir William Ramsey was convinced that the Bible was a fraud and he took thirty years of his life to prove that Luke was a poor historian and his writings of the gospels in the book of Acts were a fraud. He spent thirty yeas researching this. At the end of it he shook the academic world and he said Luke was one of the best historians ever. And he even said that his own research brought about his own conversion. Example: For years though the Bible said there was a pool in Jerusalem called Bethesda, there's no archaeological evidence that such a huge pool existed. And so the academics were saying the Bible's a fraud," "There is no pool of Bethesda, archaeology doesn't show it." Until the day they uncovered the pool of Bethesda and you can see it there today uncovered, all of its glory. For years historians were saying, "Well the bible speaks about a governor of Judea called Pontius Pilate but there are no historical records in secular history to show that there ever existed such a man." Until, they discovered in Caesarea a stone that says, "Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea." Their mouths were shut and you can see that stone today in Caesarea on display.
Also, this book, this biography of God has a unified message. Now hear me out on this. This isn't one book, this is actually sixty-six books written over 1600 years by forty plus authors in a few different languages written on different continents about controversial subjects. Some of the writers were fig farmers, others were shepherds, there were politicians (I know that already places its credibility at risk), rabbis, etcetera. They spoke about subjects like God, the origin of the world, the presence of evil, the destiny of mankind; and with all of the differences in background language there is a unified point of view. Now just think about that. Try this as a comparison: Get ten of your best friends, or just get ten people from your neighborhood, so you have people speaking the same language of the same culture on the same continent, get them in your house and have them write a personal essay on the meaning of life and see if they all agree. You'll have ten different essays with very different points of view. Or, how about this: What if we were to take, not sixty-six books but just twenty-five medical books that have been written over a thousand year period and treat somebody based on the information therein; all the way from the headhunters in Africa to John Hopkins University and everything in between and we treat a disease based upon all of that information. You'll kill the person you're treating or you'll create Frankenstein perhaps.
Something else about his book that will satisfy the mind, it did mine, is prophecy. Now that sets this book apart from every other holy document ever written. The bible is filled with intricate predictions written about something years before it ever occurred. God said that the children of Israel would be in Egypt for 400 years, they were. The Bible says they would be later on in Babylonian captivity for 70 years, they were. There's 330 predictions of the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus, intricate predictions, where he would be born, what tribe he would come from.
Here's an example: Isaiah 44 and 45 predict one hundred years before it ever happened that Jerusalem would be attacked and the temple would be destroyed. That was, nobody believed that, they were stable at the time it was written, the temple was a natural historical landmark. And, the same book, the same chapter, 45, names a king who will be born 160 years later, Cyrus was mentioned in the Bible 160 years before he was born as someone who would help the Jews rebuild their temple. That's just a snippet of so many things. And that amazes some people frankly. The Barna Research Group noted four out of ten adults, that's 38 percent believe the entire Bible was written several decades after the death and resurrection of Christ when in fact it was written way before, most of the Old Testament certainly was. You know what? I have never yet met someone who honestly considered the evidence for the scripture who's rejected it, who had an open mind. They come away with a satisfied mind. And the Bible will do that, it can save the soul, it can satisfy the mind, there's a third thing it can do, let's look at verse 8, it can satiate the heart, "and the statues of the Lord are right Look at this word) rejoicing the heart." There is something about having a sense of authority over you in life, something you can always appeal to, let's see what the Bible says about this situation I'm in. What are the principles in the scripture regarding marriage and family and children and my job, etcetera. There's something about having that appeal to that authority that brings a sense of rest, liberty, rejoicing. No wonder David loved the word blessed so much. It means happy. In Psalm 1, "Blessed, oh how happy is the man who meditates on the law of God day and night."
I'm going to read you something and I wonder if this describes you. This is a little study put out by Tyndale House Christian publishing company, "Ninety percent of Bible readers feel at peace all or most of the time as compared to fifty-eight percent who read it less than once a month." Isn't that great? It is if you're a frequent Bible reader. Ninety percent feel at peace all or most of the time. It goes on to say, "Ninety-two percent of frequent Bible readers report knowing a clear purpose and meaning in life as compared to sixty-nine percent of infrequent Bible readers." Read it, a lot. A lot, a lot, because of what it will do, what it promises to do and what it can deliver. It can satiate the heart.
Fourth, it can stabilize your future. Now I use that as sort of a summary of a few different verses. Verse 8, the commandment of the Lord is pure (and watch this) enlightening the eyes." The idea of the word is alight shines in darkness, it enables you to see the path so you can navigate. I get it, I know what to do now, I know where to walk. And verse 9, "The fear of the Lord is clean (and how long will it last) enduring forever. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." And then in verse 11, "Moreover by them your servant is warned." So put it all together. It enlightens me, verse 8; it warns me, verse 11; and verse 9 it's going to endure forever. What that means altogether is this: the truth that got you through yesterday and is getting you through today is the same truth that will be available tomorrow if, God forbid, you get that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night and you hear the worst possible news that you're most afraid of hearing. God's promise will be there to sustain you as countless of people have testified of that in the past.
I've always loved the story of that factory that had the big machine. It broke, they tried to fix the machine, they couldn't, they called in an expert looked at this big machine that he had put in, took out a little ball pin hammer, ding, clicked it once, the thing started working. And then he handed a bill to the factory, you owe me a thousand dollars. Now they were disturbed, a thousand dollars, all you did was hit it with a hammer, could you itemize the bill? He said, "Sure, a dollar for hitting it with the hammer, $999 for knowing precisely where to hit it with the hammer." Have you discovered that the Bible knows exactly where to hit you? That God can just take a phrase of a text and bam, it's enough. It does that. And thus you and I can navigate our future that seems so dark, the light comes on and it stabilizes our future.
So generally God speaks in the world, specifically God speaks through his word. Let's look at a third way, this was David's prayer, and that is personally to the worshipper. Verse 10, "More to be desired are they (they refers to the commandments, the statutes) More are they to be desired than gold. Yeah, than much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey in the honeycomb. Moreover by them your servant is warned and in keeping them there's great reward. Who can understand his errors? (His meaning David's own personal sins and errors) Cleanse me from secret fault. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me, then I shall be blameless and I shall be innocent of the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer." So follow David's journey from verse 1, God you speak in the world, God you speak through your word. Now God please, even in the meditations of my thoughts and my own words, may I reflect the same glory of your biography that is seen in these two other places. Don't you want that? Wouldn't it be great for you to know with confidence that god doesn't just speak through his Creation and speak through the Bible but that your very life, your very words, are a reflection of his own will, to people and for yourself.
Now for that to happen, first of all whatever revelation you would get from God has to correspond with the first two, it's not going to contradict God's truth in the world or in the word, it always has to be matched up with that. But for that to happen, two things have to happen, two things are required. You have to value this book. You have to value this book. I want you to look at verse 10, just briefly one more time, "More to be desired are they than gold." I wonder how valuable your Bible is to you. I wonder how precious even more than gold now in our present economy with the value of things going down and even gold going down and the multi-billion-dollar bailout package that we're wondering about; this is going to be easier to do than it was maybe a few months ago: to look at God's word as more valuable than everything else because everything else seems to be going down. But it's my prayer that you and I would learn to love this precious gift of God's word.
Somebody handed me this some time back, it's called "Some top signs that you may not be reading your Bible enough." Here's one, "You think that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may have had a few hit songs during the 60s." Yeah, that'd be a good indication. "You open to the gospel of Luke and a World War II savings bond falls out. You're frustrated that Charlton Heston is not listed in the concordance or in the table of contents. You catch your kids reading the Song of Solomon and you demand ‘Who gave you this stuff anyway?' You think the minor prophets were guys who worked out in the quarries." All of those would be a good indication, you need to be reading that book a little more. Now would you agree that there is quite a difference between having something and treasuring it. Big difference, here's an example: I get mail like you do every week. In that mail there are some things I treasure and some things I don't. I'll get cards of encouragement, I treasure those, sometimes I'll keep them for a long time and refer to them. In a dark moment I'll pull them out. I have the love letters that my wife and I wrote before we were man and wife and we were dating. I kept them all, we have them, we treasure that. But we also get in the mail bills. I don't treasure them. I respond to them but I don't treasure them. I pay them but I don't keep them for months, keep copies of them and pull them out and go, "Honey, listen to this, we owe this much. Just listen to it again." We don't treasure that. There's a difference between having a Bible and treasuring that Bible. Ninety-two percent of American households own at least one Bible, that includes agnostics and atheists, I'll guarantee you not everybody in that household treasures that book. But the reason every week you hear the same thing, here's what you hear every week: turn in y our Bibles to …." And then we give you the passage. And then you can hear the pages flying. Because we believe that the Bible is front and center, it's not after the worship, it's the culmination of the worship, it's part and parcel of the worship. The reason there's a pulpit at the center of the platform is to make the statement the word of God is central. And you coming and sitting here and being attentive is the statement that you believe that to be so, you've got to value it.
And second and we close with this, you've got to obey it. You can't just have it and memorize it, you've got to obey it. Verse 11, "Moreover by them your servant is warned (and let's end on this) and in keeping them there is great reward." Do you see that word keeping? Notice what it doesn't say, it doesn't say: "And in reading them there is great reward." It doesn't even say, "And in underlining them there is great reward." It doesn't even say, "And in memorizing them there is great reward." It doesn't say, "And in having them in four different translations there is great reward." It's making the transference from, "I treasure it, therefore I'm going to keep it." In that there is great reward. That's where this biography is very different. You can read any biography of anybody else and all you've got to do is read it. You can't deal with this one, this one you've got respond to it. You've got to respond to it.
J. Vernon McGee used to say in his own cool way, "Every Bible needs to be bound in shoe leather, friends." And then that's how he said it. I always love it probably because that's the way he said it. But it's such a good truth: it must be bound in shoe leather, you've got to live it.
I'll close with this story: There was an agnostic professor who traveled to the Fiji Islands and he encountered a tribe who had been impacted by missionaries who had come before and brought them the gospel. There was a church there, they had a value system that was very New Testament. And this agnostic professor said to the old tribal leader, "You're a good leader, sir. It's just a shame that you've been duped by the missionaries who came years ago and brought you the New Testament gospel message. We know now that the Bible isn't really accurate and nobody really believes the Bible literally any more, we're more enlightened than that.' And that old chief kept his eye on that agnostic professor and said, "Sir, you see that stone over there. That's where we used to bash the heads in of the people before we ate them." The old professor didn't say a word. And the chief smiled and he said, "And next to it, you see that oven, that furnace, that's where we used to roast the bodies before supper." He said, "Sir let me tell you something: Were it not for the missionaries who brought the gospel message, the love of Jesus Christ, that would convert a cannibal into a Christian, you'd be our supper by now." AT that moment in time, that agnostic professor was glad that tribe believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible, probably for the first and only time of his life. Every time I see a changed life, I see the power of God's biography. It works. It satisfies the mind but it changes a life if you let it.
Heavenly Father, we do thank you, we rejoice just to be reminded of what a great treasure and gift the Bible is, very different from any other book or document ever written. And it only makes sense that if there is a God who can cause everything to exist and order it with such meticulous intricate beautiful design, certainly that powerful a God could maintain that a book be written that is accurate, that reflects who he is. It just stands to reason. We're thankful Lord for what it does for us. In Jesus' name. Amen.